Airway Heights police say they need more information before deciding whether to press charges against two men accused of beating two city officials last month.
City Administrator Mike Patterson suffered two broken cheekbones and a cracked nose during the early morning attack outside the Golden Inn Restaurant on June 30.
Bill Bailey, the city’s code enforcement officer, came away with a broken jaw in the same fight.
Both say they were at the Airway Heights restaurant drinking and dancing with their wives. Near closing time, they left the business and were approached by two men they had seen earlier inside, Patterson said.
Those two men, Airway Heights resident David Smiley and an out-of-state friend identified as Nate Smith, both told police they were the ones involved in the fight.
But their version of how it happened differs drastically from Patterson’s and Bailey’s.
Smiley said Patterson and Bailey made racial slurs toward his friend, Smith, who is black. Patterson started the fight outside the restaurant, Smiley said.
Patterson and Bailey say they did nothing to provoke the attack.
While nearly two dozen people saw the conclusion of the fight, “some of them have been difficult to get statements from,” said Airway Heights Police Chief Jim Nettles.
“Until we’re done with the investigation, I won’t say anything that jeopardizes what we’re doing,” he added.
A police spokesman said some witness reluctance might be connected to the racial slur allegation.
Smiley lives a short distance from the Golden Inn, where Patterson and several friends had gathered after an evening barbecue.
While there, Smiley said he had heated words with another man who was dating Smiley’s former girlfriend.
Smiley and Patterson agree on two things: they had never met before, and Patterson urged Smiley to cool down and not lose his temper inside the restaurant.
Smiley had met Bailey. When moving his mobile home to a new location recently, Smiley was given a citation by Bailey for failing to have the correct city permits.
Smiley said Friday, however, that he was not upset with the city. “Bailey even told me later to forget the $54 fine, that he would tear it up.”
Police have asked both Smiley and Smith, who is reportedly still in the area, to take lie-detector tests.
Smith could not be reached for comment.
Smiley insisted Patterson and Bailey were belligerent after coming out of the restaurant, and that Patterson swung first.
“If that’s what happened, then how did both my cheekbones get broken and my nose get cracked?” Patterson asked.
Patterson said Smiley’s allegations are “completely ridiculous” and a “total fabrication.” Bailey said he’s confident the two men would be arrested and convicted of assault.
Patterson said he has a sketchy recollection of the episode.
He recalls standing outside the restaurant, standing near Smiley when he was struck by Smith.
“People tell me the whole episode lasted several minutes. It seemed much shorter to me, and I don’t remember much after I got hit,” Patterson said.